US Fire Administration publishes comprehensive recruitment and retention guide

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In response to the urgent need for effective strategies in recruiting and retaining volunteers for emergency services, the US Fire Administration (USFA) has released a comprehensive manual, aptly named “Retention and Recruitment for the Volunteer Emergency Services.”

A holistic approach to recruitment and retention challenges

Acknowledging the significant role volunteer fire and emergency medical services (EMS) departments play in community safety, the USFA aims to provide tools and insights to navigate the persistent challenge of securing and maintaining a dedicated volunteer base. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the number of volunteer firefighters has decreased markedly from 897,750 in 1984 to 676,900 in 2020. To reverse this trend, the guide takes a comprehensive approach, identifying and tackling the factors that contribute to such a decline including time demands, increased training requirements, and leadership issues.

Chief Richard Patrick, director of the National Fire and EMS Division at the USFA, stated: “By addressing critical challenges, collaborating with local governments, implementing effective recruitment and retention strategies, and providing guidance on marketing, data utilisation and funding, this manual offers a comprehensive resource for volunteer departments to overcome obstacles and ensure the continued safety and protection of their communities.”

Building bridges with local government

A significant component of the guide delves into the relationship between volunteer departments and local governments. As local governments have the responsibility to provide fire protection services, the manual focuses on the need for effective collaboration and shared responsibility to ensure the necessary support, particularly in terms of funding, is secured.

Insightful recruitment strategies

The guide also brings into focus recruitment strategies for volunteer fire and emergency services. These strategies emphasise locating potential volunteers, outlining effective onboarding processes, and understanding the impact of department culture and image on recruitment. The manual further highlights the importance of cultivating diversity and inclusivity within the ranks of the departments for them to better serve their diverse communities.

Retention strategies for a diverse and inclusive volunteer force

The USFA manual also extensively covers retention strategies, proposing an annual retention assessment to keep up to date with the evolving needs of volunteers and potential issues. A wide array of topics, from effective leadership and health and safety considerations to volunteer benefits and family support, are covered to ensure a comprehensive approach to volunteer retention.

Additionally, sections on marketing, data-driven recruitment, and retention efforts and funding strategies are also included in the manual.

In providing such an extensive manual, the USFA is ensuring that volunteer departments have the resources they need to attract and retain dedicated volunteers. By implementing the strategies and practices laid out in the guide, these departments are better equipped to fulfil their crucial role in community safety.

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